Behind The Curtain – 16mm Film Emulation

November 21, 2018

In this Insight, Dan shares his approach to creating a classic 16mm Film Emulation that he used on a recent music video.


Embracing The Happy Little Accidents

I recently graded a music video that felt very like 16mm film…except it was shot on Red Dragon.

I didn’t set out to make it as filmic as possible but I am so happy with the results that I wanted to share my process and thoughts.

There are two main reasons the video looks this filmic.

The Cinematography

It seems like an obvious one but this video was shot in overcast conditions so we get a lovely underexposed feel with beautiful sky detail.

Lots of skintone then sits down in the darker areas of the digital negative and has that lovely textured 16mm feel.

A lot of the time the bits that make 16mm film look so good is that they didn’t have a HD monitor on set for people to point at and say

Make this brighter!


We need more light on the actor

They had to leave the magic to the DOP and let them do their job.

I speak about the cinematography in more detail in the video below as think the lens choices play a huge part.

For me, anamorphic is always going to feel more 35mm and premium feature film feeling.

Open gate 4:3 instantly has that lovely 16mm feel.

16mm is also softer and grainier than the digital images we are used to working with.

This leads me to my next point

Referencing Actual Film

Another technique I used heavily was referencing both the rushes and graded film that I had on my system.

Two big influences were shot by a good friend of mine Jamie Harding

He shoots beautiful 16mm film and has such a great natural style that I instantly think of him when grading film.

Idles – Great

Bring Me The Horizon – Wonderful Life

I referenced these videos for things like

Contrast, Sharpness, Colour Rendition and just general exposure and feeling

The Music Video

Check out the grade we are going to check out here!

As it’s better to show how this all ads up together let’s jump over to the video insight so I can show you more.



Homepage Forums Behind The Curtain – 16mm Film Emulation

  • Erik P

    The tutorial video doesn’t seem to want to play…it’s also showing a 0:00 run time.

  • Greg Greenhaw

    There is an issue with the movie its failing in amazon
    AccessDeniedAccess Denied

  • Alex W

    I am experiencing the same issue.

  • Pat Inhofer

    We’re looking into it…

  • Pat Inhofer

    And… it should be working now.

  • Pat Inhofer

    Hi Greg – Take another look. Is it playing for you now?

  • Pat Inhofer

    We think we found the problem. Can you confirm it’s working?

  • Willian Aleman

    The video is playing normal at this end.

    Dan, Thanks for the insight.
    I would like to know why are you balancing the clips at group-post clip level instead of at group pre-clip level? It makes sense to me to have the 2383 LUT in post. However, I don’t understand the reason why the CST and print light are at the end of the chain. If it works, it works, but the reason why always interest me.

  • Erik P

    It is working now.

  • Andrew A

    Didn’t play… now it does…

    Thanks for the insight Dan.
    I like the idea of using the grouping function to create the “film style” (or any style) workflow. Have you used it much with clients? One issue I am running into is creating multiple versions. I have been duplicating the timeline and creating new groups for that timeline to show for example, a warmer or cooler look. Can you create versions of groups? I also just got turned on to shared nodes. I have been experimenting with using compound shared nodes just like the grouping. So a shared compound node with grain and soften and whatever then your balance and matching nodes then a shared compound with your “look”. that way you can add a pre de-noise or whatever and you can use the grouping to take care of mis-matched cameras or white balance problems with your groups. Just getting into the weeds here.

    Thanks Again

  • Nico Wieseneder

    Thx a lot, Dan. Great Insight and lovely work!
    I love working with Print-Emulations too and I have a pretty similar workflow but I always added the grain after everything in timeline-mode. Need to try your approach asap. Makes a lot of sense with your explanation. Would love to see an whole detailed Insight about this musicvid too.

  • Jeffrey S

    +1 for a sequel to this insight where we get to see you how you graded a few of these shots on the clip level. I was expecting the use of printer lights and master offset for exposure in this film grade, but intrigued you used regular LGG and not Log controls.

  • Ruben B

    +1 for an even more detailed insight on this music video. Tnx for sharing this Dan!

  • Patrick T

    +1 Would love see a more in depth insight into this process. Love your approach of going beyond the 2383 lut and creating a truly cinematic workflow from start to finish. Would love to know how you used the printer lights and how they contribute to the look you’re after. Putting us over your shoulder while you actually use them in the grade would be cool. Pre and post clips- How do you use them? What’s your strategy? And I’d love to know what lenses were used. Great work. Always look forward to your insights.

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